There comes a time in every man’s life, when he looks at what he has accomplished and accumulated to this point and what lies beyond, yet to pursue. I found that when I hit the pivotal age of forty back in 2013, I took stock of my life at large and contemplated the brevity and breadth of it all.
Forty is like a half-way marker. It’s a brutal, unforgiving assessment of what is, for real. It’s half-way to eighty, and eighty is an age that spells pretty much the end of one’s life here on Planet Earth.
I look back at the greatest, single influence on my pro wrestling career early on, “Nature Boy” Ric Flair, the 16-time world heavyweight champion in our grand game of professional wrestling. I recall the year 1990, when Flair was wrestling against Lex Luger at a WCW (World Championship Wrestling) pay-per-view event called WrestleWar ’90, that it also happened to be on his birthday. The announcers tried to sell it as if it was Flair’s 40th birthday, when in reality, it was his 41st. Nonetheless, I remember this detail speaking to me in volume even back then.
My old friend Chris Jericho currently wrestles for WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) as their US Champion, a belt that he will be defending against fellow Canadian grappler Kevin Owens next weekend on April 2nd at Wrestlemania 33. Jericho is about three years my senior, now age 46. He’s still doing well, hanging in there at the top of his game, arguably on one of his last runs with the company. I applaud him. He’s done very well, staying in shape and being able to connect with a changing audience and parlay his character across various generations of wrestling fans. Yet, the end is drawing nigh, even for my old pal Y2J, simply based on age.
Now, back to my original point: the things left to pursue in one’s chosen career or life path. Tallinn, Estonia was such a waypoint for me personally this past weekend, the reason being that the event I took part in was a professional boxing card.
For the longest time, since the onset of my personal pro wrestling career, I’ve been fighting to defend the credibility of my fighting art, called professional wrestling. There have always been detractors and shit-talkers and there always will be. Still, I have always felt compelled to defend the honor of my business, which many see as a faux sport. Like one of my early role models, Bret “Hitman” Hart, said in his autobiography some years back, “It seems as though I’ve been defending professional wrestling my entire life.”
For me, I’ve always prided myself on being legitimate when I step into the ring. I take my sport seriously. Regardless of how many people – some contemporaries included – have prostituted and bastardized our trade, for me, I’ve always strived to take the higher road of credibility. I’ve gone the extra mile and fought tooth and nail to retain integrity in the believability of professional wrestling. For me, it’s a matter of professional pride.
Being able to parlay my skills and take part in the Warrior Fight Series 1 event this past Saturday night in Tallinn, Estonia on March 25 was a true milestone for me. It was history in the making.
I was able to step into the ring in front of a virgin audience, engage them and win them over, making believers in the process, as I fought against a true athletic stud in Vladimir Kulakov of Russia. This was an international match of epic proportions: the time-tested, world-traveled ring veteran against the younger Russian pro wrestling champion and a literal wolverine amongst his peers. It was action and reaction, just as professional wrestling should be, in front of an audience that was there with an open mind, ready to make their initial assessment of the grappling game that is professional wrestling. It was an ambitious endeavor to win over a new fan base and build where no one else had built or wandered before.
It is in this – venturing out into new, uncharted territories – that I take personal gratification in at this stage of my pro wrestling career. I pioneered the business in Finland back in 2003 along with promoter Patrik Pesola, which launched an entire scene in the country. My hallmark is set in stone as the most successful professional wrestler ever out of the Nordics and the northern sector of Europe. My track record globally attests to that claim, and my championship reigns worldwide, along with my lengthy list of name opposition all around the world support that argument. Now, I need a new mountain to climb. A new challenge to contest.
Tallinn was the beginning of another chapter in my personal pro wrestling career. I want to thank the promoter of EST Boxing, Mr. Grinkin, for having the faith to present pro wrestling on his card. I want to also thank the Estonian media at large for covering the match to the degree that it has received media attention, which you can see e.g. from the link below:
Every one of us has the chance to build our own legacy in whatever our chosen endeavor is. The true question is, how much heart do you really have to pursue your ambitions and goals, turning your dreams into a reality?
Life is short. Make yours spectacular.